10, 2010

Interview of President Serzh Sargsyan during his working visit to Shirak marz

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Mr. President, what are your impressions after your visit to the sugar factory?

Armenia was not producing sugar for many years, now we have started to produce sugar. Certainly, the accomplished works are very impressive and this factory equipped with modern machinery is set to solve a number of problems: first, it will provide the region with 1000 new jobs. Right now 700 people are already employed. One thousand permanent jobs with competitive salaries will solve many vital problems of this region and some time later the results will really show. Second, the factory will serve as a locomotive for these communities because it is capable of processing local sugar beet. I understand that right now there are still some problems, and there is no trust yet. Probably, the people are doubtful that the factory is able to purchase their entire harvest or doubt that the harvest itself will be bountiful. I am sure that with time the problem will go away. And the second most important issue that this factory will solve is the implementation of our policies, i.e. curbing imports and boosting exports. I think, within a short period of time, Armenia will not be importing sugar at all because the quality of the sugar produced in Akhurian will be not worse and less expensive than the sugar produced abroad. The first load of the product has already been shipped and, as the owner of the factory told me, has been successfully sold in the country to which it’s been exported. There are also other problems but I believe the factory addresses these three major problems both for the country and for this region.

Mr. President, our sugar is already being imported to Georgia. Would you say that our product will create strong competition on their market?

Frankly, I didn’t study the Georgian market thoroughly; however I am confident that this factory, which will be exporting high quality and competitive sugar not only to Georgia but also to other countries, will obtain its own permanent spot in markets. Moreover, the state will be constantly delivering on its obligation in this region: we will be encouraging our farmers to grow sugar beets. Obviously, the more sugar beets Armenia will be producing, the more stable the prices will be since it’s not enough to have a sugar plant, it is also essential to have raw material. If this factory works on the raw material imported from South America, the price of the end product will depend on the price of that raw material. We don’t want to go down that way.

Mr. President, inflation and income of the population do not rise evenly. Would you comment on that?

It’s a good question. I am sure that’s the most discussed issue on our agricultural markets and generally at all produce marketplaces – that everything is very expensive. Of course, it’s a fact, and we share that concern. In this particular case, I will not try to link the process to the world prices, or weather conditions because no matter how evident the reasons are, a price hike is always bad and we must intensify our struggle against it. Regardless of the fact that major price hikes are actually linked to food stuff and produce, in the last nine months we registered 4.8 percent inflation in our country and in the same period of time the average salary in our country was increased by 8 percent, while social benefits and pensions grew even more. However, you know that we cannot be complaisant about that. On the other hand, I wouldn’t promise that our next year’s budget will see a steep rise of salaries and pensions, or that next year everything will be nice and smooth. Even though the new budget will include a 10 percent rise in salaries for military personnel (as you know, raised will be salaries for the workers of the cultural area and teachers, as well as pensions, etc.), this problem will persist in Armenia for some time. The only solution is to build factories like this not only in Akhurian but all over our country, to create permanent and well-paid jobs. Job availability will undoubtedly help our people solve many problems. My point is: do not expect a swift breakthrough in this area, but at the same time we do appreciate the acuteness of the problem and in fact work very hard to solve this problem.

Mr. President, recently there have been many publications regarding the situation in the army. What do you think, what’s your position on all that?

I detest all that, not the fact that the army is being much talked about, but the fact that the army is being disparaged and it is made for political, narrow personal or partisan ends exclusively. Our army has never been void of incidents; there has never been a year without causalities among the soldiers or officers or without tragic accidents because our army is a huge structure and our army is on active duty and, finally, any army is the indivisible part of the society. Army is the mirror of the society and all failings and problems that exist in the society to a greater or lesser degree will always be present in the army - be it in Armenia, the United States, India, or elsewhere. Undoubtedly, the army is a much more organized, much more disciplined, much more enhanced structure than any other structures and our demands with regard to the army are much higher than those with regard to other structures. From this point of view, of course I am concerned with all those incidents that are taking place in our armed forces. However I don’t for a moment doubt that every day, every hour our army becomes more combat ready, our army continues to improve and I am confident that every Armenian ought to be proud of our army. I salute all those persons who view our army as the apple of our eye, our pride, the safeguard of our honor and our dignity. I also salute all those who speak about the existing deficiencies in our army, but speak with heart ache, speak to have a better army tomorrow, so that less young people or officers die in the army. I apologize for harsh words, generally I refrain from using harsh words but I despise all those individuals who are trying to get political dividends at the expense of the army and first all those individuals who tried to serve in the army and failed, all those individuals who tried to get engaged in the army building process but only harmed the process. The persons, who once occupied high positions in the army administration structures but never came to understand what the Armenian army is and what, in general, our armed forces are must be kept at bay. I appeal to all reasonable people, I appeal to all patriotic people, and, finally, I appeal to all our citizens to treat our army fondly, also strictly; our army, I want to repeat, is our pride. I am proud with our army. Thanks God, we still live in peace. Only once it became necessary to prove that this army is capable of carrying out its mission, and today evidence of the fact is visible and tangible for everyone. Ungrateful are the people who reap the fruits of the army’s valor and at same time berate it. Who needs such people?

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